A Skin Walker, also known as a "yee naaldlooshii" (Navajo for "by means of it, he/she/it walks around on four legs") is usually
a person with the supernatural ability to change their form
into either an animal
or another human being
Being very similar to Werewolves
, and other paranormal shape changers, most skin walkers' abilities are largely powered by dark ritual
, and the breaking of native taboos (Such as cannibalism, incest and murder, especially of family members) or are heralded to create them. Each tribe's version differs in details. Most Skinwalkers are differentiated from their brethren by being able to take multiple shapes, but are not free-form shapeshifters. The myths usually describe them as humans who wear only an animal skin, or an abomination of human and animal forms.
Primarily detailed in many Native American tales, these entities are sometimes portrayed as either practicing witches, or aspects of the trickster deity (Coyote) or something worse
, from the shared mythology of many indigenous American peoples, Skinwalkers are considered one of the most fearsome monsters from Native American Mythology
. In those myths, they have a few extra powers, including Telepathy
, Voice Changeling
(mimicing animal and human sounds) and the creation of poisonous/disease ridden "Witch Powder" or the Magical Eye
. Some cannot fully shift into their animal forms and have a deformity
(awkward gait, over-sized feet, etc.) revealing their true nature.
Killing one is either simplified to accusing the creature in public while in human form (which robs it of power and it dies in 3 days) or an involved, lengthy ritual.
Related to Voluntary Shapeshifting
, Magical Native American
. See also Our Werebeasts Are Different
. Of late, it's been connected to Berserkers and more often than not, used as a shorthand by writers for "American Werewolf."
Anime and Manga
- John Manuelito from the Alexandra Quick series is a fairly well-researched depiction of this.
- Werewolf (1996) purports to be a skinwalker, instead of "the white man's werewolf." No, it's the white man's werewolf, complete with silver bullets.
- Same as the film Skinwalker (2006).
- Beorn, in The Hobbit, is a "skin-changer" who dislikes (most) dwarfs, but hates orcs/goblins. As a man, he can be reasoned with, but not as a bear.
- Part of the Navajo cultural background of some of Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee mysteries, particularly the novel Skinwalkers.
- The protagonist of the Jane Yellowrock series is a skinwalker of Cherokee descent. The first book is, appropriately enough, called Skinwalker.
- The Dresden Files
- A skinwalker appears in the novel Turn Coat. It mentions the classic version, the human witch, but also mentions the entities which teach them the trade: quasi-divine beings that grow more powerful the more they are feared and have an innate ability to know how to cause the maximum suffering in their victims. Gets into a Crazy Awesome Shapeshifter Showdown with Listens-to-Wind (who kicks its ass in a manner most righteous) at the end of the book. The book also presents an alternate method of killing a skinwalker, forcing it back to where it came from: point-blank nuclear annihilation.
- The TV Show also had a Skinwalker — which literally stole skins to assume its new forms.
- Cold Days revealed that there are at least six more skinwalkers currently imprisoned on the uppermost level of the supernatural jail under the Demonreach island — and that whatever else is imprisoned below them is even worse.
- Skin Game has Goodman Grey, who is part-skinwalker (apparently on his father's side). Unlike the one seen in ''Turn Coat', Grey is at least trying to be a decent person, as is shown by his helping Dresden to break into the underworld for the massive sum of one dollar.
- Mentioned, but never seen, in the Mercy Thompson novels. They are evil shamans who wear the skin of an animal to assume its form, and spread disease and death.
- A mutant at Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe has this power, only he can move his consciousnes into an animal and take it over. He can do the same to any person he sees. He even uses the codename 'Skinwalker'. His dormmates had to devise a protocol to keep him from doing this to any of them.
- Two skinwalkers are the primary antagonists for the fourth book in the Iron Druid Chronicles. The protagonist is tricked into dealing with them by Coyote, who doesn't want to risk dealing with them himself in case he fails and they get hold of his skin.
- Featured as the main antagonists in Preston and Child's Thunderhead. However, it ends up being a case of Doing In the Wizard as the skinwalkers gain their powers from creative use of poison and drugs.
- An early episode of The X-Files called Shapes features a Native American werewolf which, during its transformation, sheds its skin in a snake-like manner. Had the episode been made today it seems likely that the monster would be called a skinwalker, but the writer instead called the beast a Manitou. This is a case of Sadly Mythtaken, as a Manitou is a class of Algonquin nature spirit, while the episode treats the term as referring specifically to a lycanthrope.
- An episode of Smallville has another Wolf-shifter named after these creatures, but...yeah. Not really.
- Lost Tapes devotes an episode to it, and it is both chilling and surprisingly accurate to the legend.
- Skinwalkers are brought up in True Blood among the "Shifters" who can change into animals they have touched. True Blood skinwalkers are shifters who have killed an immediate family member. From then on, they can take on the appearance of other people, but using this ability more than a few times is invariably fatal.
- Skinwalkers also show up on Supernatural as people who can turn into various dogs and can be killed by silver.
- Haven has a Serial Killer known as the Bolt Gun Killer, who has the ability to wear other people's skins after killing them and then transform into that person. The main characters suspect that the Native American legends of the Skinwalker may have been based on the Bolt Gun Killer's ancestors, as Trouble abilities are hereditary.
- Pathfinder has an undead creature called an "Ecorché'', named after a drawing of a skinless person. They're able to steal a persons skin and wear it to look like them.
- Savage Worlds has a horror campaign, Skinwalker based on this mythology
- In BattleTech fiction, there's the 17th Recon Regiment, formed from planets settled by people from Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. One sociopathic 'Mech pilot, Bobby Begay, named his giant robot "Skinwalker" after this myth, much to the disgust of the rest of the regiment—it's so overtly and intentionally offensive they consider it the equal of a pilot from a Christian denomination naming their 'Mech "Baby-Eating Satan Worshipper."
- The Hag in Thief: Deadly Shadows.
- There is a videogame created using RPG Maker called Skinwalker about the eponymous creature. A let's play of it (and link to its download location) can be found here.
- They appear briefly in Bad Moon Rising, being exterminated by Hunter Madsion and Born-Werewolf Chloe.
- When a werewolf-like alien appears on a reservation in Ben 10, the "Yendaloshi" is mentioned repeatedly.